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The Boston Globe Online (March 4, 2010)

From Azerbaijan to Waltham, with soul

Quasimov photo

by Denise Taylor

woman’s mournful, ululating voice rises with a sound as lonely as the desert. A sorrowful tenor echoes her lament. The drums quicken. An oboe-like balaban wails, and soon the voices merge into one intensifying cry curling in upon itself, rising higher, modulating faster, and channeling a centuries-old music steeped with melancholy, unrequited love, and wisps of hope. Such is the sound of renowned Azerbaijani vocalists Alim and Fargana Qasimov as they perform their homeland’s classical music known as mugham.

As part of Brandeis University’s MusicUnitesUS program, this father-daughter vocal duo will perform with a four-piece ensemble Saturday night at the university’s Waltham campus. The program draws first on Azerbaijan’s ashiq tradition, an energetic and often humorous folk music. The second portion of the concert moves onto Mugham Bayati Shiraz, a suite of improvised pieces that launches listeners into sometimes ecstatic, often achingly sad, musical terrain.

Both genres are heavily influenced by Turkish and Persian musical traditions, but the haunting melodies of this country, which established independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, remain their own - and this concert offers a rare opportunity to experience them live. Want more? The Qasimovs are in residence at Brandeis today through Saturday with a full schedule of programs open to the public.

Alim and Fargana Qasimov: The Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan 8 p.m. Saturday (7 p.m. preconcert talk with Theodore Levin), Brandeis’s Slosberg Music Center, 415 South St., Waltham. Advance tickets: $20; students/seniors $15. At door: $25/$20. 781-736-3400. Full schedule, tickets, and music clips at www.musicunitesus.info/world.

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